December 20, 2009  •  rogermourne

“It is what it is”

It sounds to me as if this term is descended from “What it is”, a Black-American expression that goes back to the 1960s. Then it meant, “It’s part of The System”, or “It’s just part of how African-Americans have to live in the USA”, implying restriction, being the object of racism and prejudice, and adopting a philosophical and pragmatic way of living under pressure. “What it is” seemed to come from late 1960s black culture, including the Black Panthers, so-called “soul music” and more. It might come from a song. I only heard black people say it, never anyone else, and it was an expression of positive resignation, as if it also meant, “We can’t change that but we will move forward anyway.” Now, 45 years later, “It is what it is”, sounds like a more vague descendent. I think it’s weaker and less compelling because it sounds artificial, as if a movie screenwriter created it. Again, I dislike the vagueness of it, especially because wen people say it, they seem to imply it explains something, which it does not. It seems to be a weak vulgar shrug uttered by those who don’t know what else to say, and are baffled or confused themselves. I’d accept it from African-Americans, who might catch a subtlety or a meaning I don’t. But now I’ve heard it from 2 highly educated white friends, and it sounds phony coming from them. WHAT DOES IT MEAN AND IS IT EVER VALID OR WORTHWHILE?

December 20, 2009  •  rogermourne

Current use of word “edgy” (December 2009)

I hear this word more and more, usually to describe music, singing and writing. From the 1950s to about 2000, “edgy” meant “compelling”, “provocative”, often “defiant” or “questioning”, “obviously important” and sometimes dangerous, or nearly so, as it is to walk on a ledge, or near the edge of a rooftop. For example, Bob Dylan’s songs have always been called “edgy”, same as Kurt Cobain’s or Lou Reed’s. Part of edginess is nonformist, and challenging the status quo. Jon Cage would be considered edgy, while Leonard Bernstein would not. “Edgy” usually seems to mean “original”, too. You could call Chris Rock cool and provocative, sometimes, but not usually edgy, as Dave Chappelle is edgy. ---- All right. Is that still what most of you mean by “edgy”? Lately there seems to be a growing connotation of “originality”, too. For example, it’s hard to be “edgy” with even slightly older styles, subjects or forms of singing, composing music or writing short stories or novels. What do you think?

December 16, 2009  •  steve3

Use of “Massive”

I am getting tired of hearing MASSIVE every five minutes of my life. Usually it is used to mean extra heavy, sometimes just big, e.g. a massive storm hit the Carolinas, or a massive thought. It is overdone. In addition, I am used to it meaning really TINY. For example, the electron is a massive object; the photon is a massless object. This comes from the idea (that I was taught) that massive means having mass, which means >0 mass. So the proton and the electron are each massive, both having >0 mass. Yet each is smaller than a microscope can see. Can anyone shed light on how this word—used so often—has come to mean really big?

December 15, 2009  •  damienveatch

decapitalize vs. uncapitalize

I’m stuck on the correct use of “un-” (as in “reverse action”) and “de-”. Specifically, I want to write that a student should change an incorrectly capitalized word to the lower case. Should he “uncapitalize” it or “decapitalize” it? It’s true that the word should be uncapitalized, but since he incorrectly capitalized it in the first place, must he now decapitalize it?

December 11, 2009  •  rib

Twenty-ten vs Two thousand-ten

If you ever listen to Charles Osgood, you know he has been saying “twenty-oh-one” rather than “two thousand-one” for, well, about nine years. The usage is parallel to calling the year 1901 “nineteen-oh-one” rather than “nineteen hundred-one”, yet it never caught on with the general public. Now, however, the stakes are higher with “twenty-ten” saving a whole syllable vs. “two-thousand-ten”, aside from being easier to pronounce. Yet I still mostly hear the latter. Am I going to have to grate my teeth every time I hear “two-thousand-x” for the rest of my life, or is there hope that the English-speaking world will come to it’s senses?

December 3, 2009  •  josh2

A perfectly acceptable construction

“It has a great construction” sets my teeth on edge every time a writer I work with uses the phrase in written English. Is this correct/standard usage? It sounds so wrong to me, but I can’t point to the rule it violates. Am I simply biased against... A perfectly acceptable construction? These sound/seem so wrong:. My t-shirt has a durable cotton construction. That house has a great construction. With a construction of 100% cotton, her dress... I think you omit the indefinite article.

December 3, 2009  •  lainiewhitney be or from being?

When using the word prohibits... which is correct? ...which prohibits fences 4 ft in height from being erected ... or ...which prohibits fences 4 ft in height to be erected ...which prohibits any fence from being constructed... or ...which prohibits any fence to be constructed

December 1, 2009  •  redfern

Moments & Seconds

Are you writers aware of time? More and more often I read about a character staring at another character for several moments. If you mean several brief time periods, try using seconds. It’s much more powerful and precise. For example, “the angry client stared at the well-dressed bank manager for several seconds”. That’s believable and many of us have experience glaring at someone for several seconds. But if you use several “moments” in that phrase it just sounds endless and wrong and inaccurate. Who holds eye contact for several “moments”? Unless it’s a prelude to a kiss, someone is sure to walk away before several moments are up.

November 26, 2009  •  whoopycat

“...not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

I’m curious as to the origin of the phrase “...not that there’s anything wrong with that.” I have a vague recollection of hearing it for the first time -- possibly in a comedian’s act? -- many years ago, clearly in the context that it now seems to ubiquitously have: a reference to homosexuality. For the life of me, I cannot recall who it was I first heard say this. I do seem to recall that it was long before Seinfeld made it popular. Does anyone else have a similar memory?

October 30, 2009  •  yd

Table of Content vs Table of Contents

Apart from the fact that convention is clearly “Table of Contents”, is there a grammatical reasoning for “Table of Content” vs “Table of Contents”? I guess it comes down to whether the noun “content” is one that can be counted, i.e. several contents, or not. My instinct is that in fact, content is not an enumerable noun, i.e. it should be Table of Content. But does that mean that MS Word, LaTeX and all other Desktop Publishers out there are just wrong? YD

October 28, 2009  •  simon

Causative or Causal?

What is the correct usage of causative and causal? If, for example, you want to describe the etiological agent of a disease, would you call it a “causative agent” or a “causal agent”?

October 5, 2009  •  juttin

p. v. pp.

Why is “page” abbreviated “p” while “pages” is “pp”? Of somewhat less interest to me, I also wonder whether “p” or “p.” is the correct notation?

October 1, 2009  •  andy2

Heaven or heaven?

Talking about the concept of the afterlife in Catholicism, would you capitalize Heaven? Moreover, what about Hell?

September 16, 2009  •  aaron

Loose = Lose?

I have noticed dozens of examples of people, mainly on the Internet, typing the word “loose” when what they really mean is “lose.” For instance, “I didn’t want to loose the car keys.” Do you know when or how this annoying mistake came to be? It seems like it has only been going on for the past year or so, but it could be longer.

September 10, 2009  •  jeremiah

Fetch Referring to People?

A friend has issue with the use of “fetch” used to mean “go get someone.” She referred to its association with having a dog “fetch” something as being offensive: “it is not okay to use a word commonly known for a dog retrieving a bone to refer to a human being - period.” And also hinted its use as being inappropriate in a professional/office setting. The definition i have says: “go for and then bring back (someone or something)” and says nothing at all about it being a dog trick. Also interesting that someone is listed before something. What do you say?

August 30, 2009  •  ronaldlhughes

Why have media changed our words?

I ask each of you to consider the fact that a certain word seems to have disappeared from all of our media! What you say, that is impossible! Well just read the news or listen to the news, etc. and you will find out that a very simple word has been replaced by a more complicated word, and every one is doing it in the Media! And, I mean everyone! The word is “Pled” / “Plead, which can be a short version of “Pleaded”! You have been unable to see the shortened version of “pleaded” in either print media or hear it in TV, or Radio media for about ten or so years now, maybe even longer. Instead of a news account saying “John Doe pled / plead guilty yesterday”, all media will say “John Doe (or “they”) pleaded guilty yesterday!” My question is, WHY? And why wasn’t I told about it? And why did everone else know it was no longer to be used before I noticed it was totally missing in my world of today? Why, Why was I not involved in the numerous discussions which must have taken place amongst the learned persons of this society? Why was not there a Public Opinion Poll taken, which whould have made it a majority descision? Why? I now asume that most Media will still state that, “John Doe bled to death”, or will they change this to, “John Doe bleeded to death?” And what might happen to “led”, will it be “leded” or even “leaded” away? What will we all do about the use of this phrase “John Doe was shot “to death” yesterday!” Is now possible for someone to be “Shot to life?” How about the never let a chance go unused use of the terms; “immeasurable”, and “countless”, and “un-countable”, and, and ?, when most every thing that the Media considers as “countless” or “imeasurable”, etc., is in fact either “measurable” or “countable!” When will it stop? And if it does, will anyone let me know? Ron

August 20, 2009  •  Dyske

Is Punctuation Part of “Mechanics”?

According to my research, punctuation is part of “mechanics”. If so, is it redundant to say, “punctuation and mechanics”? I do see many instances of people using “punctuation and mechanics”. For instance, I came across an article written by an English professor entitled “Common Mistakes of English Grammar, Mechanics, and Punctuation”. If punctuation is indeed part of mechanics, then this title itself would be a mistake ironically.

August 19, 2009  •  jenn

Capitalization of dog breeds

When referring to “French” and “English” bulldogs, the geographic part of the breed will always be capitalized. What are the rules about capitalizing the stand alone word “bulldog?” From what I understand, AKC dropped the requirement to use “English” in front of the word “bulldog” (or so I’ve been told....) so I am left with the word “bulldog.” Should I capitalize or not? I referred to the AKC site to see how they were handling the capitalization and they begin by capitalizing the word then use a non-capitalized version throughout their article. Thoughts?

August 12, 2009  •  zipetaa

Difference between a release and a waiver

I translated some legal agreement several day ago. It is about an accident in a hospital resulting in the death of AAA. In this agreement, it is provided that AAA’s parents would waive (the term I used) all claims they may have against the Hospital and something like that, but my boss told me yesterday that “release” should be used in this case. I referred to certain dictionaries, but found nothing that can explain their difference. Can the term “waive” be used in this case? Is there any difference between a waiver and a release? Many thanks

August 5, 2009  •  jayd

obstinacy vs. obstinancy

I’ve seen both of these words used to describe a person’s stubbornness. Obstinacy seeming to come from obstinate, and obstinancy seeming to derive from obstinant. Which is the correct form of the word, and is there some sort of subtle difference between the two?

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